11.30.10

Comment Of Senator Patrick Leahy On Repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

The Pentagon report supporting the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” adds even more momentum to an ever-increasing call to end this flawed and discriminatory policy.  In light of the report’s findings, I want to directly address some of the points made by Senators in defense of this discriminatory law. 

Some Senators have said recently that the calls for an end to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” have come only from politicians, and not from those within the military itself.  Such a claim is laughable, as well as pernicious.  Of course there is no call from within the military to repeal the law.  Those who are targeted by the discrimination are legally barred from being honest about who they are.  And if a member of the military, gay or straight, argued loudly for an end to the policy, no doubt their sexual orientation would be questioned and they themselves would potentially be subject to harassment or punishment.  At the very least, those individuals could find themselves in danger of an unfriendly command climate.

The claim that the policy is not hurting our military is simply untrue.  Such a statement dismisses the abilities of those service members who have been wrongly discharged because of who they are.  Would those in Congress tell Lieutenant Colonel Victor Fehrenbach, an 18-year veteran of the Air Force and an F-15 pilot who was discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” that he contributed nothing to our country?  How about the many skilled technicians and foreign language interpreters in whom we have invested so much time and money who were subsequently discharged under this discriminatory policy?  Such a statement would be the height of bias and bigotry.

It is well past time to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”  We now have the Pentagon report for which so many of my colleagues have clamored for months.  It reflects the views of our military leaders and I take them at their word that a repeal would not jeopardize our national security.   Predictably, opponents remain unsatisfied, take issue with the report on technicalities, and refuse to follow through on their earlier promises.  Regardless, I implore all of my fellow senators to allow an up-or-down vote on this year’s Defense Authorization Act, with a repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” included in its provisions. 

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